– J. B. Priestley
The story revolves around the sacrifices and selfless devotion that a mother gives in order to nurture and nourish a happy and healthy home. The mother in the story, Mrs. Pearson is one such woman. She struggles all day to fulfill every whim and fancy of her husband and children, daughter named Doris and son named Cyril.
The three family members live a busy social life and relegate Mrs. Pearson to the position of a domestic help.
This creates a sense of frustration and discontentment in Mrs. Pearson who only wants some appreciation and reciprocation form her beloved family.
Things take a twist when a magician and fortune teller, Mrs. Fitzgerald moves into the neighborhood. Soon, the two become close and Mrs. Pearson confides in her regarding her troubles. Mrs. Fitzgerald is a headstrong and cynical woman who devises a plan to correct the ways of the Pearsons for the better. She conspires to exchange soul/spirit with Mrs.
Pearson so that she can teach her family a tough and much needed lesson in gratitude and humility. Mrs. Pearson is a docile woman who does not want to disrupt the peace and quiet of a middle class home. She lacks the callousness to talk tough with her husband and kids. Eventually, she is won over by the plan and the souls are exchanged.
Now, Mrs. Fitzgerald (in Mrs. Pearsons body) goes to the Pearson house. The first person she encounters is the spoiled daughter, Doris.
She is planning to go out on a date with her boyfriend and commands her mother to prepare her dress and some tea. Unexpectedly, she receives a curt rejection from a smoking Mrs. Pearson (with Mrs. Fitzgerald soul). Her mother does not stop at the dismissal and expressly critique her boyfriend, calling him dumb and unflattering. Doris cannot endure such response and breaks into a wail.
Soon, the son, Cyril enters the house and casually demands his evening tea. However, he only gets a cold dismissal from a raging Mrs. Pearson. He is taken aback and considers that her mother maybe undergoing a breakdown. Mrs. Pearson remonstrates with her children about the fact that all of them have a social life and only work for 40 hours a week and enjoy a weekend break. In contrast, being a wife and mother, she is constantly working for twenty four hours, seven days a week and that too without any appreciation let alone a salary.
Mrs. Pearson now starts drinking and takes her feet off. Suddenly, her husband, George enters the scene. He informs them that he has a dinner function at the snooker club and therefore, would miss her supper and tea. The visage of drinking Mrs. Pearson startles him and loses his cool. Mrs. Pearson wryly responds to his disgust by claiming that if he can drink, so can she! She also decries his club companions who consider him a laughing stock and a butt for all the jokes. George is dumfounded, disappointed and hurt.
Gradually, all three realize that ignorance and irreverence to the toils and devotion of Mrs. Pearson the mother and the wife. Now, real Mrs. Pearson (in Mrs. Fitzgerald body) joins them and pleads with Mrs. Fitzgerald to switch back to their original bodies. Mrs. Fitzgerald gives one rousing final lesson to the family and restores things to normal.
The entire exercise succeeds in its ambition as the Pearsons realize their mistake and disregard for family. They decide to dine together and also play games together. They resolve to curb their extraneous social lives and commit to building stronger bonds between each other and appreciate the thankless job of a mother.